Bus drivers operate buses and drive passengers along local, chartered or intercity routes.
Bus drivers usually earn
$19-$24 an hour
Source: Tranzurban, 2020.
Pay for bus drivers varies depending on experience, where and how many hours they work, and what type of bus they drive.
- Entry-level bus drivers usually earn between minimum wage and $21 an hour.
- Experienced bus drivers can earn between $21 and $24 an hour.
Pay for tour coach drivers varies depending on whether they work full time, or are contractors or seasonal workers.
Sources: Tranzurban and Kiwi Experience, 2020.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Bus drivers may do some or all of the following:
- visually inspect buses before driving them to make sure they are safe, clean, refuelled and ready for use
- load and unload passengers' luggage
- collect fares from passengers, giving them tickets and change
- give passengers information on routes, fares and timetables
- deliver a commentary on the area they are travelling through and answer passengers' questions
- keep a logbook to record work time and rest breaks.
Skills and knowledge
Bus drivers need to have:
- excellent driving skills
- knowledge of the Road Code and transport regulations
- knowledge of the area they work in, the correct bus routes, and the correct fares
- the ability to operate Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology, and multi-function ticketing systems
- understanding of basic bus maintenance
- knowledge of sites and attractions along their route, and New Zealand culture and history.
- usually work shifts, including nights and weekends. Many urban bus drivers work split shifts, usually during peak morning and afternoon periods with unpaid time off in the middle
- spend most of their time in buses and at bus depots
- have to drive in all weather conditions
- travel between cities and towns if they operate tour coaches or intercity buses, and may have to spend time away from home.
What's the job really like?
A rewarding job
Lance Schaffer leads a double life – full-time university student, part-time bus driver. At just 20 years of age, he has more responsibility than most people.
“Driving such a large vehicle is exhilarating, especially driving urban buses through narrow city streets. The responsibility behind it is quite fulfilling.”
Lance also enjoys the meaningful interactions he has with the public.
“It’s crazy, but people confide in you even though you’re just an ordinary bus driver. You get to hear their life stories.”
With bus drivers having to interact with members of the public, Lance highlights how important it is to maintain an open mind.
“You’re always dealing with a wide range of people – they might be living on the streets or in upper-class homes, or be immigrants or tourists who speak different languages. You can’t be judgemental. You’ve just got to deal with each challenging situation as it comes.”
A career worth considering
Lance’s advice for anyone thinking of becoming a bus driver is simple.
“Just do it! A lot of people assume they can’t do it because they’re scared of driving such a large vehicle. But you get trained and put through lots of processes. They’re not going to let you out on the road without showing you how to do it properly. It’s a really enjoyable job, so just give it a go!"
To become a bus driver you need to have held a clean Class 1 driver’s licence (a car licence) for two years.
Depending on the size of bus you want to drive, you also need a Class 2 or Class 4 driver’s licence.
You must also have a valid passenger (P) endorsement on your licence, which shows you can carry passengers. This involves:
- passing a medical exam, including an eyesight test
- a background check, to ensure you are a “fit and proper person”
Most bus companies provide driver training for license classes and usually pay drivers in training.
- New Zealand Transport Agency website - requirements for driving a passenger service vehicle
- New Zealand Transport Agency website - bus driver licensing requirements
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but English, maths, and construction and mechanical technologies to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Bus drivers need to be:
- understanding of people from different cultures and backgrounds
- able to remain calm under pressure
- honest and reliable
- good at basic maths
- good at communicating
- friendly, polite and patient
Useful experience for bus drivers includes:
- other driving work, such as taxi driving
- customer service work
- work in the tourism industry.
Bus drivers need to:
- be reasonably fit and healthy to get a medical certificate every five years
- have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses)
- have good hearing.
Find out more about training
- Bus and Coach Association (NZ)
- (04) 499 7334 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.busandcoach.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
High demand for urban bus drivers
There is high demand for bus drivers in urban areas. There are regular job vacancies because workers usually only stay in the role for a short time.
With COVID-19 affecting the tourism industry, there is currently low demand for tour coach drivers.
According to the Census, 8,874 bus drivers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Approach employers directly
It's a good idea to contact companies directly about bus driver jobs. Most major bus companies are always recruiting.
Types of employers varied
Bus drivers can work for a range of employers, including:
- large companies that run urban and intercity buses
- local companies that run school buses or tour coaches.
- Abbott, J, secretary transport logistics & manufacturing division, First Union, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2020.
- MacManus, J, 'Five hours without a rest ‘unsafe’ for Wellington bus drivers and passengers', Stuff, 14 March 2020.
- Neilson, M, 'Bus strike: Auckland drivers take action on Friday after breakdown in mediation over pay, hours', NZ Herald, 12 March 2020.
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Bus drivers may progress to work as:
- supervisors or managers at bus companies
- bus inspectors
- bus driving instructors.
Bus drivers may specialise in driving:
- set routes and timetables, school bus routes, or long-distance intercity routes
- charter buses taking passengers on one-off trips such as to functions or events
- tour coaches taking passengers on local or long-distance tours.
Last updated 12 August 2020